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Zinc deficiency linked to chronic inflammatory disease

Zinc deficiency linked to chronic inflammatory disease

According to a new study out of Oregon State University, chronic diseases that involve inflammation, like heart disease and diabetes, may be affected by the presence of a simple micronutrient: zinc. Zinc deficiency is more common in older adults, which appears to expose them to a higher risk of chronic inflammatory disease, the study suggests.

Zinc, which is also necessary for proper neurological function and immune system health, is a micronutrient found in foods that contain a high level of protein, such as red meat and shellfish. Older people's bodies don't absorb zinc as well as younger people, so they are at a higher risk of zinc deficiency with 40 percent of people 65 and over not getting enough zinc as opposed to 12 percent of the general U.S. population.

The researchers, led by Professor Emily Ho of the OSU College of Public Health and Human Sciences, conducted experiments that showed that zinc deficiency triggered an inflammatory response in cells. They also compared the zinc levels of younger and older mice, finding that the older mice had lower levels of zinc and corresponding increased chronic inflammation.

"When you take away zinc, the cells that control inflammation appear to activate and respond differently; this causes the cells to promote more inflammation… It's a double-whammy for older individuals," Ho said in the study.

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